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Depression is on the rise globally. It's moved from being a little mentioned ailment in society to a phenomenon having surged to epidemic proportions. Globally, it is estimated that 280 million people suffer from depression, with the disorder being the leading cause of disability.

This illness, which is a form of mental health disorder, is widespread in classrooms, farms, boardrooms, cities, and suburbs, affecting millions of young and older people. The affected persons suffer prolonged feelings of hopelessness and sadness and can function poorly at school, at work, and in the family. If left untreated, depression can cause serious health complications. Fortunately, prescription drugs and therapies are effective in treating mental health issues like depression.

The gold standard in treating patients with depression is psychotherapy and antidepressants, but combining the two is more effective. However, this treatment doesn’t work for everyone; some people have treatment-resistant depression (TRD). These people end up seeking alternative mind-altering treatments, often referred to as off-label drugs, to treat their depression.

This trend of using alternative treatments to treat depression and other mental disorders is increasingly becoming popular. There are many people self-administering psychedelic drugs in small doses to try and improve their mental health. This is what is called microdosing.

This article focuses on how people are microdosing mushrooms for depression and delve into the whole mental health conversation.

Different Forms of Depression

  •     Major depressive disorder
  •     Persistent depressive disorder
  •     Psychotic depression
  •     Postpartum depression
  •     Seasonal affective disorder
  •     Bipolar disorder
  •     Post-traumatic stress disorder

People with this form of mental disorder will often lose interest in important things they used to enjoy, pull away from people, eat and sleep too much or too little. They also experience loss of energy, anxiety, forgetfulness, confusion, lack of concentration, and extreme feelings of guilt and worthlessness and think of harming themselves or others.

Depressive episodes are categorized as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the severity of depressive symptoms that one experiences and their impact on their functioning. Experts attribute anxiety and depression to a complex interaction of biological, social, and psychological factors.

There has been speculation that the modern environment has contributed significantly to the depression epidemic and anxiety disorders. The lifestyle changes have led to poor physical health, seeing many people become increasingly overfed, malnourished, sleep-deprived, sunlight-deficient, and socially isolated.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't helped matters since social distancing has forced people to remain isolated in their own homes. This has seen people disconnect from their everyday lives and families, friends, and colleagues, causing stress and anxiety. Others have lost their livelihoods, and the sudden loss of income brought feelings of hopelessness and loss of meaning in life, leading to anxiety and depression. 

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing is a recent phenomenon that involves taking small doses of psychedelic hallucinogens to enhance the mental and emotional state. While microdosing can be applied in the use of any substance, its mainstream use refers to the use of hallucinogens and psychedelics.

The most popular psychedelics that microdosers are using to treat mental disorders like depression include psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), cactus peyote, DMT, cannabis, ketamine, nicotine, iboga, MDMA, and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Of these, LSD and mushrooms are the most-researched and most commonly used.

Microdosers take minimal amounts of these psychedelics every three days for one to two months. The users experience subtle changes in perception, far less from the effects that a trip from the standard use of a psychedelic drug would have. LSD, psilocin, and psilocybin use aren’t medically accepted yet since their potential for abuse when treating mental health problems are considered high by government institutions. Although we're learning the opposite seems to be the case.

There is a lot still unknown about microdosing psychedelics, as it is yet to be taken through rigorous controlled studies and further research that any medical intervention should. What is known now mainly comes from the subjective experiences of microdosers. Numerous studies show that controlled use and microdosing of psychedelics like ketamine and psilocybin in a controlled environment could help treat PSTD, anxiety, and depression. 

Why do People Microdose for Depression?

There are prescription drugs used to treat mental health issues. However, the medication doesn’t work for everyone. These people with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) end up seeking alternative mind-altering treatments, often referred to as off-label drugs, and self-medicating to treat depression. This trend is increasingly becoming popular, with many people self-administering psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms or LSD in small doses to treat psychiatric disorders and improve their mental health.

Proponents of this phenomenon believe that microdosing psilocybin mushroom for depression and several other psychedelics benefits the mind. They believe that taking these drugs in quantities smaller than regular doses helps them think more clearly and feel more open as they go about the day. The small doses do not cause intoxication or any significant alternation of their consciousness that may cause them to “trip” or hallucinate as large doses would.

Many people use high doses of hallucinogenic or psychedelics for recreation, self-exploration, or spiritual purposes. However, this intention differs widely from why microdosers are self-medicating with the same drugs. Microdosers take these drugs to improve their well-being. 

How can Microdosing Help with Depression?

Studies investigating the effects of microdosing have been very few, and little is known about its long-term side effects. Most of the documented studies have relied on self-reporting by asking questions to people who are microdosing or interested in it. These reports can be biased since these people may already have expectations of having a good experience when microdosing, and the users also report different benefits.

Further research is needed, including comparative analysis with placebos to make a valid case for microdosing and its therapeutic potential. Most of the information available on the effectiveness and side effects of microdosing shrooms for depression comprises reports from microdosers.

While academic institutions like Harvard, Johns Hopkins University, UW-Madison, and many other powerful organizations are doing psychedelic research to aid in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction with a focus around larger doses, microdosing is slowly gaining traction.

However, many still believe that microdosing does help with depression. We cannot say with certainty that microdosing is the solution to depression. We can say that the data available from people who microdose implies that taking small doses of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms does help with some depression cases. A recent study in  Harm Reduction Journal categorized the possible benefits of microdosing mushrooms for depression and anxiety as below.

1. Improved mental health

If you have this question lingering on your mind, “Is microdosing safe for depressed people?” you will want to hear this. The main reason why most people Microdose is for their mental health. People who use microdosing do it to reduce mental health disorders like anxiety, stress, and a majority of them to alleviate symptoms of depression. They found microdosing to be less effective than psychedelic substances in the treatment of depression and anxiety but more effective than other forms of treatment.

2. Creativity

It is hard to validate or quantify creativity. However, people that use microdosing psilocybin for depression claim that the drug boosts their creativity. There are several other factors that, when combined, can still lead to improved creativity. A scientific study has yet to be conducted to back the claims and offer detailed information; all there is to support these claims is anecdotal evidence.

3. Improved brain functionality

Anecdotal evidence shows people believe in the ability of microdosing to improve their brain functionality and beneficial cognitive effects. People claim microdosing makes them more open to trying out new things and ideas, which they would normally not engage in when depressed.

4. Focus

Microdosing depression leads to lower distractibility, helping you focus temporarily on a task. Depression symptoms and anxiety will have you distracted and hardly manage to accomplish tasks as required. Microdosing is especially helpful when working on big projects, so one can focus without having their mind wander.

5. Helps quit other habits

There is a claim that microdosing diminishes the urge to use simple stimulants like coffee and helps people quit certain habits like smoking or drinking alcohol. These are habits most common with depressed persons. There is a suggestion of promise in anecdotal claims that microdosing psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms help people quit using other drugs.  While this hasn’t been explored fully through formal research, it can be reasonable to push the government to legalize microdosing for depression to fight the drug abuse menace in society.

How Can You Safely Microdose?

There are no real side effects of microdosing in the short term, but that does not mean the process can't be a dangerous one. There is an implied risk in taking an illegal drug. Buying an illegal substance like cocaine from someone you hardly know is the risky part of the transaction.

Sourcing microdosing psychedelic substance safely and from a trusted source isn't easy and can be frustrating for anyone trying to get started on microdosing. It can even land them in trouble at the federal level depending on the state's drug policy. You need to find a community of psychedelics and build trust with them to get reliable sources for the drugs.

A safe microdose should be a tenth of a standard hallucinogenic drug. Taking doses that clinical researchers use as a reference, a psilocybin mushroom dosage should be between 0.3-0.5g. An LCD microdose is between 10-20 mcg. The microdosing treatment frequency per week ranges between two to four times a week. One can take the microdose for a few weeks or months, but some rare cases take the treatment for years.

Patients who microdose shrooms for depression have reported experiencing some common short-term benefits. They tend to experience a decrease in negative mood, increased positive mood, and improved relationships with other people and the environment. The patients also experienced a reduction in depression symptoms for a long time after treatment, up to five years. For safe microdosing, we recommend getting started under the supervision of a trained medical health professional from clinics that conduct clinical trials to explore the use of psilocybin mushrooms. 

Studies on the Effects of Microdosing Magic Mushrooms for Depression?

Depression is the most common form of mental illness. According to reports by the National Institute of Mental Health, 7.1% of the adult population in the US had at least one depression episode last year. Fortunately, treatment using psychotherapy and antidepressants work for most people.

However, recent reports on the effectiveness of mushrooms in treating depression, even the kind that was resistant to treatment, give more reason to look into the psychedelics for treatment and legalize microdosing for depression. ‘Magic mushrooms’ contain psilocybin as the main active ingredient with psychedelic effects.

Research on microdosing psilocybin for anxiety and depression therapy is still ongoing, and clinical trials on this substance use show promising results. Without any new antidepressants drugs developed for the last 25 years, these positive experiments on the mushrooms have given hope for a new generation of depression treatments.

Most mushroom species contain the psilocybin substance that produces psychedelic effects on people. When people ingest these 'magical mushrooms', they experience sensory hallucinations and euphoria. The psychedelic experience lasts for a couple of hours before it clears off. Some research findings suggest that when small amounts of mushrooms containing psilocybin are combined with psychotherapy, it can effectively treat depression.

Psilocybin increases communication across the brain's networks, with researchers speculating that the brain connections' changes help the patients snap out of depressive patterns. It is worth noting that even with the recent increase in interest in therapeutic purposes of psychedelics like psilocybin, their use isn’t new.

Several cultures and religions have long been utilizing psychedelics for their spiritual purposes and as traditional medicine. It is only now that the medical field is catching up with the healing properties and other beneficial effects of magic mushrooms.

There are several benefits associated with microdosing psilocybin for depression:

Effective on treatment-resistant depression

People with treatment-resistant depression have been seen to respond well to the mushroom’s psilocybin. Depression is termed treatment-resistant when a patient's depression symptoms cannot be relieved by various medications, talk therapies, alternative therapies, or lifestyle changes. Reports from studies of microdose users seem to suggest that a small dose of a psilocybin ‘resets’ the patient’s brain, causing a similar effect that an electroconvulsive therapy would.

Emotional connection

The way antidepressants affect a patient's emotions varies widely from how the magic mushroom works. Antidepressants relieve depression by dulling emotions, which unfortunately leaves them feeling numb since it blunts the positive mood too.

The psilocybin in magic mushrooms has a contrasting effect, helping patients reconnect with their feelings by increasing emotional processing. Instead of reinforcing emotional disconnection and avoidance, psilocybin treatment has depressed patients willing to accept their emotions.

Few side effects

Psilocybin use is short-term, with few side effects. This is unlike treating depression with antidepressants that often require long-term use with various side effects: insomnia, dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness/fatigue, indigestion, dry mouth, sexual problems, increased appetite, and weight gain.

Fast-acting

According to a study by Imperial College London’s Professor David Nutt, microdosing with psilocybin in depressed patients is safe and fast-acting. All it needs is careful administration to have value on the patients. In His study, all the depressed patients showed improvements in one week. The fast-acting nature of the mushrooms is an attractive feature since patients take weeks before they can start feeling any benefits from other therapies or antidepressant medication. 

Effective Treatments for Depression?

Medication:

Antidepressant medication has greatly helped treat major depression and change many people's lives. It is most effective when paired with exercises and talk therapy.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT):

This depression treatment is considered the gold standard by many. CBT helps patients reframe their thoughts and feelings to reduce depressive symptoms. The treatment seeks to help the patient become aware of their negative thought patterns as the presumable underlying cause of depression, then learn how to replace them with good thoughts.

Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy:

Psychoanalysis helps a patient understand their unconscious beliefs and processes to address and ultimately release them. The idea is to get to the roots of long-held views often formed through early trauma or family dynamics.

Short-Term Therapies:

These therapies are worth considering in treating depression.    

*Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that uses mindfulness to accept ones' current situation.         

*Emotional-Focused Therapy (EFT) focuses on emotions and attachment theory at the forefront, rather than cognition.        

*Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) addresses interpersonal distress as a contributor to psychological distress.         

*Behavioral Activation Therapy for Depression (BATD) is a behavioral strategy that encourages people to think about the experiences, conditions, and environments that contribute to their depression and alleviate them.

Exercise:

Physical activity is a form of therapy found to be effective in treating mild and moderate depression. Regular exercise causes the production of serotonin, a brain chemical with antidepressant effects. It causes makes the brain grow new cells and reduces inflammation, believed to be a major cause of depression.·        

Other Practices:

Besides treatments, there are other little things that one can engage in to help keep depression at bay. Being around people takes feelings of loneliness that lead to depression away. Journaling helps with depression by creating a narrative around a problem instead of bottling it up in your head.

Being of service to others is a well-known method of self-healing. Prayer and spirituality play a big role in addressing depression. When one releases control to something bigger, it is therapeutic.

Final Thoughts

Microdosing mushrooms for depressions is generally described as safe, albiet unproven. However, it is essential to note that psilocybin in larger doses can also produce unsettling effects when it induces psychedelic experiences such as drowsiness, nausea, nervousness, hallucinations, and forgotten traumas rising to the surface. This is why it is advisable to be under a mental health professional’s supervision when using psilocybin to treat depression.

Psilocybin treatment can also pose a risk for people that have experienced psychosis episodes. This means that people with schizophrenia or bipolar mental health conditions shouldn’t use psilocybin-assisted therapy and drugs.

As always, before you can even consider self-administering any psychedelic substances like microdosing mushrooms, your first step should be finding a therapist that you can trust and is also easy to connect with.

If you interested in reading more check out this article on how microdosing works

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